Tag Archives: Social Security

How Much Do You Need to Save for Retirement?

In the financial advisory business, one of the most pressing and controversial topics is how much money people need to save during their working years in order to provide for long-term retirement income.  The research on this topic has evolved quite a lot in recent years, and a recent issue of Money magazine features a series of articles representing the current view on this critical topic.  These articles, based around interviews with a number of the current thought leaders on this topic, deserve to be widely read and discussed.

The series of articles in Money kicks off with perspectives by Wade Pfau.  Pfau’s introductory piece suggests a difficult future for American workers.  A traditional rule-of-thumb in retirement planning is called the 4% rule.  This rule states that a retiree can plan to draw annual income equal to 4% of the value of her portfolio in the first year of retirement and increase this amount each year to keep up with inflation.  Someone who retires with a $1 Million portfolio could draw $40,000 in income in the first year of retirement and then increase that by 2.5%-3% per year, and have a high level of confidence that the portfolio will last thirty years.  It is assumed that the portfolio is invested in 60%-70% stocks and 30%-40% bonds.  The 4% rule was originally derived based on the long-term historical returns and risks for stocks and bonds.  The problem that Pfau has noted, however, is that both stocks and bonds are fairly expensive today relative to their values over the period of time used to calculate the 4% rule.  For bonds, this means that yields are well below their historical averages and historical yields are a good predictor of the future return from bonds.  The expected return from stocks is partly determined by the average price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio, and the P/E for stocks is currently well-above the long-term historical average.  High P/E tends to predict lower future returns for stocks, and vice versa.  For a detailed discussion of these relationships, see this paper.  In light of current prices of stocks and bonds, Pfau concludes that the 4% rule is far too optimistic and proposes that investors plan for something closer to a 3% draw rate from their portfolios in retirement.  I also explored this topic in an article last year.

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60-Second Retirement Savings and Income Checkup

I think that the American public has largely tuned out the myriad studies showing that most households are woefully under-saving for retirement.  Even if we’d prefer not to think about this issue, however, it is crucial to regularly check on how we are doing.  There are two major questions.  First, during your working years, are you saving enough?  Second, during retirement, how much income can you sustainably plan to draw from your savings each year?  The good news is that there are some simple tools that you can use to do a fast estimate of how you are doing, how much you need to save to stay on track, or how to get on track. Continue reading

One Advisor’s Approach to Income Investing

Guest post by Contributing Editor, John Graves.

Editor’s Note:  John Graves has been an independent financial advisor for 26 years. He is one of the two owners of The Renaissance Group, a Registered Investment Advisor based in Ventura, CA.  John’s book, The 7% Solution: You Can Afford  a Comfortable Retirement, was published in 2012.  When I read this book, I was impressed with John’s approach and thinking and I recommend it as a good read.  I contacted John and asked if he would consider contributing to this blog.  After we bounced around some possible topics, he sent me the following piece that describes his process for designing income plans for retirees.  Continue reading

From the Portfolioist Bookshelf: The Clash of Generations by Laurence J. Kotlikoff and Scott Burns

I have just finished reading The Clash of Generations: Saving Ourselves, Our Kids, and Our Economy, the new book authored by Boston University Economics professor Laurence Kotlikoff and well-known financial journalist and advisor, Scott Burns. This is a truly important book, and I hope that it will be so widely read as to inspire a meaningful widespread dialog among individuals, families, and policymakers. Continue reading

New Tax Deductions and Limits for 2012

Guest Blog by Craig Guillot, Quicken.com.

With the start of 2012, there are a number of new tax laws and adjustments. From higher tax bracket thresholds and standard deductions, you’ll have some positive and negative changes to your taxes this year.

Higher federal income tax-bracket thresholds

A number of tax changes in 2012 have been due to standard inflation-related adjustments. Continue reading

The Disappearing Retirement

Well-known financial columnist Robert Powell has a recent article in MarketWatch titled, “Retirement in America is ‘Endangered.” The motivation for this piece, he writes, is that retirement preparedness is a crucially important topic that was missed in the recent State of The Union address by President Obama.

Powell goes on to list the key problems with the current ‘state of retirement’ in the United States:

1) Under-funding of Social Security
2) Low savings rates
3) Poor market returns over recent years
4) Inadequate levels of financial literacy
5) Half of American workers have no employer-sponsored retirement plan

All of these issues are critically important. In just one or two generations, we have shifted from a society in which employers provided lifetime retirement income via traditional pension plans, to one in which individuals now must manage every aspect of their financial futures, including how much to save and how to invest their retirement savings. The good news is that each of these five issues can be solved if we have the will to solve them. Continue reading

New Study Released: How Much Americans Need to Save to Retire

The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College recently came out with a new analysis of how much Americans need to save in order to be able to maintain a reasonable lifestyle in retirement.  Published in November 2011, the report is titled “How Much to Save for a Secure Retirement.”

The study starts with an assumed target “replacement rate” that represents the fraction of pre-retirement income that an individual will be likely to need to maintain their lifestyle in retirement.  A long-term project at Georgia State to estimate required replacement rates provides the numbers that serve as the foundation of the CRR paper.  The Georgia State research suggests Continue reading

Social Security and Retirement: The Reality

Social Security is a hot topic in the economic and political landscape these days. Many reports indicate that Social Security’s finances are getting worse as the economy continues to struggle and as the “Baby Boomer” generation begin to retire. To add to the confusion, Texas Governor Rick Perry is standing by his assertion that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme—a fraud being perpetuated on today’s young people by old people. While I’m not sure this is necessarily true, I recently came across a fascinating history of the Social Security program that will help us understand how we got to where we are in the first place.

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Americans Face Steep Retirement Shortfall

A study released July 13 has found that nearly half of early Baby Boomers – those 56 to 62 – may not having sufficient income to pay for basic retirement expenditures and uninsured medical expenses. “Generation X” is similarly poorly positioned. Continue reading